Ode to Joy

Godparents are assigned to you, based upon their relationship with your parents, as sort of a backup team that can come in off the bench if any of the starters are injured or taking a leave of absence. In general, the system makes sense. Parenting is a full-time, hands-on job that can be interrupted by the unknown and children don’t do real well with the unknown.

Oh no! Mom’s on crack! The coach signals the bench and, boom, you’ve covered. (Note: hypothetical scenario for instructional purposes only)

Again, you’re in no age-shape to make these decisions so the hope is that the second team is as good or better than the first and, if you’re lucky, the second team is an enhancement to the first while the starters are still in. That makes for good team chemistry.

I like sports metaphors.

Anyway, I lucked out with the Godparents thing. I got Jim and Dorothy and while they never replaced the starters, their impact on my developing psyche was monumental.

They were a couple who, for whatever reason, never had children of their own and yet loved children and, best of all for me, made an extremely generous gift of themselves…Dorothy in particular. From these bench reserves I learned certain irreplaceable arts, especially the art of laughter.

Jimmy had a sly wit and a bemused demeanor in the midst of socializing but Dorothy would come totally unglued. Her laugh had a complete arc to it, humbly beginning like the rumblings of a pre-eruptive volcano and progressing through stages of hysteria until she was literally gasping for air and yelling, “stop, oh please stop” and just when it looked like a life threatening seizure was about to take her from us, she’d lift her exhausted self upright and collect her wits for the next joke. My mother used to tell me that when they’d go out to dinner Dorothy would inevitably lose it and the entire room would be looking to get a glimpse of the crazy woman, but she didn’t care and she couldn’t have stopped it if she’d wanted to; this was intrinsically who she was.

Whatever the occasion I always positioned myself near her to bask in that unbridled laughter, so primal and so liberating and so contagious that I was relatively unconcerned what the joke was even about.

That was how I came to understand the power of laughter. Like any of us, I’m certain that Dorothy had her crosses to bear but she also had the ultimate emotional tonic, an immersion in laughter that freed her from the commonplace and set off a spark so bright that I wanted to be in the room when the fireworks started.

I don’t know how it must have been for Jimmy when she passed away but they were both extremely pragmatic and he likely took it painfully in stride. Even so, the silence in that house must have been somewhat unsettling.

Since that time, Jimmy has passed on as well and even though they no longer move through the physical realm I think of them often and Dorothy’s laugh is as fresh in my consciousness as the first time I heard it. I admired her because she went all out and left nothing on the table; fearless, unselfconscious and uncompromising.

I just wanted to be near the joy that was her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.